Every day, the release of the Orioles starting lineup sparks fierce debates on Twitter. Regardless of how the defense and batting lineup are arranged, countless fans always end up questioning Brandon Hyde’s decisions as well as his capability to manage the team.  

While I am of the perspective that Hyde is one of the primary reasons that the Orioles have enjoyed such a strong start to the season, his unique lineup constructions have caught my eye on more than one occasion and inspired me to look more closely into what an ideal Orioles lineup might look like. It should be noted that certain hitters perform better against certain pitchers for a variety of reasons, but for the purposes of this article, I decided to focus on splits against right-handed and left-handed pitchers. With that being said, here are my ideal lineups for the Baltimore Orioles based on statistics from the first 50 games of the 2023 season.

(EDIT: This article was written prior to Joey Ortiz being sent back to AAA Norfolk, and Ramon Urias has been activated from the IL today.)

 Vs. RHP 
Cedric Mullins (CF)
Adley Rutschman (C)
Austin Hays (LF)
Anthony Santander (RF)
Adam Frazier (2B)
Ryan Mountcastle (DH)
Gunnar Henderson (SS)
Terrin Vavra (3B)
Ryan O’Hearn (1B) 

While this lineup is a significant departure from what Hyde has put on the field against right-handers this season, the stats suggest that it would give the Orioles the best chance of scoring early and often.  

Mullins is the obvious choice for the leadoff spot given his impressive .364 OBP vs. RHP as well as his speed, which has allowed to steal 13 bases in 14 tries this spring. Following him with Rutschman, as Hyde has usually done, makes perfect sense given the catcher’s unique combination of power (.442 slugging percentage vs. RHP) and plate discipline (25 walks against just 19 strikeouts vs. RHP). 

It may come as a surprise to see Hays batting third but he has dominated righties this season, slashing .330/.376/.523 with 12 extra base hits in 117 plate appearances against them. Leaving him lower in the lineup would only detract from his ability to make a positive impact on the game. 

Batting Santander and Frazier fourth and fifth respectively provides a solid power/contact combination in the middle of the order. Santander is among the top two players on the team in both extra base hits and RBIs vs. RHP, while Frazier is batting a respectable .265 with a 12.3% strikeout rate in the same situations.  

To make way for Hays and Frazier, Mountcastle has to slide down to sixth. He remains one of the team’s biggest power threats, but his measly .200/.240/.343 batting line and 26.7% strikeout rate vs. RHP makes it difficult to keep him any higher. There’s an argument to be made that he should drop below Henderson as well, who has posted an impressive .814 OPS against righties despite a slow start to the year. For now, however, Henderson should remain seventh until he shows greater consistency at the major league level.  

Closing things out with Vavra and O’Hearn provides a high-risk, high-return bottom of the lineup. Neither has much major league experience but both have shown an affinity for producing against right-handers, slashing .268/.348/.268 and .281/.333/.500 against them respectively this year.  

This lineup leaves James McCann, Jorge Mateo, Joey Ortiz, and Ryan McKenna available off the bench if needed. Keeping three of the team’s best defenders (Mateo, Ortiz, and McKenna) off the field at the same time would be a gamble for Hyde to take, but the potential returns in terms of offensive production could be enormous.   

 Vs. LHP 
Cedric Mullins (CF)
Adley Rutschman (C)
Ryan Mountcastle (1B)
Anthony Santander (DH)
Ryan McKenna (RF)
Austin Hays (LF)
Adam Frazier (2B)
Joey Ortiz (3B)
Jorge Mateo (SS) 

While Mullins and Rutschman struggled against southpaws last season, they have both shown significant improvement this year and therefore deserve to stay at the top of this lineup. Mullins has walked as many times as he has struck out (eight of each) while slugging .473 vs. LHP, and Rutschman is reaching base over 40% of the time in the same situations.  

Their respective abilities to find ways on base should provide Mountcastle, who has absolutely destroyed lefties this season, with plenty of RBI opportunities. The first baseman is slashing .323/.343/.723 with an absurd 10% home run rate in 70 plate appearances vs. LHP this year and is the obvious choice to bat third.  

Santander remains in the cleanup spot, despite showing less power from the right side, thanks to his .277 batting average and 20% walk rate against southpaws. Given that he is following Mountcastle, he would frequently bat with the bases empty (whether Mountcastle went yard or the first three batters of the game were retired) and could help to keep the momentum going. 

McKenna and Hays are a dynamic right-handed duo in the fifth and sixth spots that would create tough matchups for any left-hander. While McKenna isn’t considered one of the most threatening bats in the lineup, his impressive .343/.368/.543 batting line vs. LHP says otherwise, and despite Hays’ reverse splits he is still batting a respectable .259 with six extra base hits against his weaker side.  

Frazier in the seven hole is probably the weakest part of this lineup, but given that he has yet to strikeout in 44 plate appearances vs. LHP this year he could still keep the line moving. 

Furthermore, following him with two capable righties ensures that opposing pitchers have to work almost as hard against the bottom of the lineup as they do against the top. Ortiz dominated left-handers throughout his minor league career and has continued to do this year, posting a .351 batting average vs. LHP between time in Norfolk and Baltimore. Mateo, on the other hand, does not have a long track record of beating up on southpaws but has been able to over the past few months, slashing .275/.339/.451 vs. LHP in 2023.  

This lineup would not only produce plenty of runs, but would also be defensively sound and leave plenty of room for substitutions with Henderson, Vavra, and O’Hearn available if opponents turn to a right-hander in the late innings.  

While there is no perfect lineup that will both satisfy the fanbase and produce results on the field, the statistics imply that these two combinations are about as good as it could get given the Orioles current roster. Still, I’ll leave the lineup-constructing to Hyde and his unique methods, as they have gotten the team off to the best start of my lifetime.  

Luke Rollfinke
Luke Rollfinke

Luke Rollfinke is an incoming freshman at Vanderbilt University where he will be pursuing sports journalism. A recent graduate from the Friends School of Baltimore, Luke has spent his entire childhood in Charm City and is a devoted Orioles fan. In the past, he has written for SB Nation and has worked closely with Ravens columnist John Eisenberg. From nights at Camden Yards to Sunday afternoons watching NFL Redzone, Luke eats, sleeps, and breathes sports. He is excited to bring his perspective to BSL.